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Charles Hawk's picture
Interview with Vladimir "shabalinvlad" Shabalin ("It seems that they (Pokerstars) don’t care about me much")


Charles Hawk: How long have you been playing?

I have playing poker for 5 years now. In 2009 I played double or nothing, in 2010 I started playing cash games, then in 2011 went to 50-50, then 6-max turbos. In 2012 I transitioned to 6-max hypers with a $10,000 bankroll. In just a few months I started playing $100+ and achieved SNE for the first time in my career.

Charles Hawk: Do you have any daily routine?

I get up at 4 PM and play lots of short sessions (1-1.5hrs long). My daily plan is 20,000 VPP but I am always trying to go for more. I can play 20 days straight, but then need some rest, so I go for a short vacation and depending on circumstances play there. In 2013 I traveled a lot spending only 6 months at home.

Charles Hawk: How much VPP did you reach since playing high stakes?


  • 2012: reached 2.25x SNE
  • 2013: reached 4.5x SNE
  • This year I am aiming to reach 6 or 7 times more than is required for SNE

I had a goal to reach 4,500,000 in 2013 to beat the record, I made $820,000 in rake – no one ever made more than that in one year period.

In my opinion, Pokerstars should consider making a higher status than SNE, because a lot of players achieve more than 1 million points too easily. It would give much additional motivation for grinding longer and, as a result, give more profit to Pokerstars.

Charles Hawk. Wow, Pokerstars support managers should be carrying you on their hands, you are like the VIP of VIP's.

No, it's the opposite, actually. Last year I lost $10,000 due to disconnects, which happens to everyone, especially if you play so much. I thought that Pokerstars would definitely cover it, as they do to most players. But they didn’t.

It seems that they don’t care about me much. I am really disappointed, but I try to stay positive and hope that they will recognize me someday, and who knows, maybe they will review my issue again and appreciate my hard work.

If we talk about all-time, only George “Jorj95” Lind and Spencer "scossett" Cossette made more profit for them.

Charles Hawk: Very strange, that they did not cover your disconnects. As I know, after one or a few letters, they give it back usually. And not only to High Stakes players…

In Hyper Turbo SNGs there is a very quick loss because of sitting out - 5 minutes and it’s over. That is why I have 4 different internet connections, but there were times when tournaments just won’t open although game went on (and I was in sit out and could not do anything – only watch my money disappear). There were times when my internet worked, but Pokerstars software did not.

Every time after such occurrences support wrote me that I have problems with my internet, which is not true. They didn’t even try to sort it out. They dealt with me as with any ordinary player although I had made more than $1,500,000 in rake already.

The strangest part is that they give it back to others, but not to me.

Charles Hawk: Did they ever write anything to you to express that you are valuable to them? For example congratulate you on your VPP results?

No, they never wrote me anything. I feel undervalued. It is very sad.

Charles Hawk: However, you would probably agree with me that Pokerstars is the best place to play online. Lots of action, great software… Also how they handled all that mess related to Black Friday…

Yes, of course. Although they deal with me badly by not returning money from disconnects, but it is still best poker room without the slightest doubt. I feel safe playing there. I know for sure that my bankroll will always be reachable no matter what. Also I respect them for fighting colluding, team play and bot play. I am happy that I can play high stakes games confidently, knowing that I can face my opponents in equal conditions.

Or when they return money if they investigate and find that some players at your table cheated – I admire that.

The software is great, I can play lots of tables for lots of hours which is a big plus. I believe I would have to cut some hours playing in other rooms due to eye-pain. If someone asks, I always recommend playing on Pokerstars.

Charles Hawk: Let‘s talk about something else. What is your advice for people who want to make their living from poker?

When a young player thinks that he is the best, he dies as a player. It is very important constantly question your playing. It gives an opportunity for development.

All who want to become professional players must know that poker generates cash only while you are playing. If you are a doctor or an engineer and you earn money, e.g. $5,000 per month, it does not mean that $5,000 earned playing poker will have the same value. Your experience in poker gives you something while you play it. After you finish, nobody will pay you for your knowledge of how to check/raise or value bet. Therefore, young players who leave universities because they earn $2,000-3,000 per month from playing poker are making a great mistake.

Also it is very important to understand that while you can overplay others, you must grab the opportunity and play as much as you can, because it will be over sooner or later. Poker is not a lifelong job, it can be done only for awhile. Also one should understand that people finish playing poker only when they start losing it and lose big amounts: nobody stops playing poker while they win. A professional player will stop playing when he loses at least 30% or even 50% of his bankroll.

So when my friends ask me to teach them to play poker, I always refuse and suggest instead that it's better to live an ordinary life. I think that being a good specialist (a doctor, an engineer, a programmer, etc.), is much more profitable than playing poker in low or middle stakes.

Another mistake by young players is when, in the very beginning, they succeed in upstreak and start thinking that this is pure skills and a huge advantage. People do not value easy money and start buying without consideration: a car, expensive clothing, clubs, new friends who grasp an opportunity for borrowing some cash from you. All this is caused because people stop valuing money and think that they always will be able to win such amounts, whatever they want. They do not think about bankroll management or table selection. Poker is cruel. The game becomes more complicated and the probability of downswing is stronger. The player starts puzzling: How has this come about, I am the best? He tells everybody that that happens because of bad beats. And earlier, when he was winning, he never bad beat anybody – pure skills. Consequently, you sell your car for half of its price, clothing does not have any value, and friends disappear with all of their debts to you. But you quit university studies, and returning to it after two years is difficult.

Poker does not forgive mistakes.

Charles Hawk: Is there any advantage to poker compared with being a good doctor or engineer?

A very large plus is that you can start playing poker with only a little initial capital. For example, I started playing with $15 in 2009. It is very good that you can achieve considerable successes with small investments. However it is very very difficult to reach high stakes, much more difficult than it has ever been before.

Charles Hawk: Tell me how big is the skill-gap between low, mid and high stakes in 6max hyper turbos?

Skill level between $100 and $200-$2000 regs is completely different. $200+ regs are more loose, play more actively in post flop, are better in push/fold situations.

Charles Hawk: Do you play only 6-max hyper turbos?

Sometimes I play cash games with Jungleman and Isaac Haxton and others, because I respect them and it is interesting to play against the best players. I also play MTTs and turbo SNGs.

Charles Hawk: How often do you tilt?

Very rarely. In general, tilt comes when I feel that I have played wrong or not optimally. There is a feeling of disappointment with self. But my playing almost does not worsen due to the tilt. I play worse when I start playing 24 tables and 10 hours a day. Fatigue is a significant enemy. How should one deal with tilt? I have only one answer to this - a good BR. When you lose 100 BI and know that you have 600 more behind – it does not cause such strong feelings.

Charles Hawk: You travel a lot.  Which country is the most memorable to you?

The most interesting country where I have been is Cuba. In my opinion, it is the best country for hedonism plus it is a very distinctive one.

This year, I want to travel for several live tournaments. This is a good opportunity to both earn some money and see the world, and meet new people. I shall go to EPT Vienna, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, London, Prague, and I will visit Macau. I think I have a good advantage over the field. I watch a lot of broadcasts and see some mistakes made by offline top regs in short stakes.

I like Belarus. I lived there for a month, and everything was good. Everywhere Russian is spoken, native nature, it's clear and everything is much cheaper. Also I had lived in Lisbon for 9 months and enjoyed it.

I will go to Brazil for World Cup to cheer for Russia. I will live in Rio for about 1 month.

Charles Hawk: How do you motivate yourself?

I think that it is very important to have correct motivation, a dream. When you know precisely what you need money for, you understand what you play for. Moreover, I like the competitive aspect of poker. There is an opportunity to become the best in the world and I have become the one.

Charles Hawk: How to win in poker? What is the best advice you can give?

You should just love the game. I have not met any successful player who plays just because of money. Of course, you can earn something playing without spirit, but not much and not for long.

RyPac13's picture
Awesome picture, and really

Awesome picture, and really good interview.

While PokerStars has been very generous to most over the years with disconnects, I have long preferred they end that practice and use that money for promotions.

I am, of course, in no place to judge if that would be a better decision for them, that's just "professional players should take responsibility for their connections more than they currently do" speaking.

So it sounds even worse for you, since you aren't benefing (at least not recently) from the generous DC policy from PS.

Can I ask, how many DCs have you had refunded prior to Stars halting the refunds?

jaws washington's picture
Cool interview, agreed with a

Cool interview, agreed with a lot, disagreed with some other stuff, but def a good read.

prekmurka's picture

with what  did u disagree?